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FCC Authorizes $237.9 million to improve mobile networks in Puerto Rico, USVI

By on June 16, 2020

(CB photo)

Includes first Universal Service Funding specifically for 5G deployment

SAN JUAN — After communications infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria more than two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) directed Universal Service Fund support to help restore networks and on Monday took “a major step toward expanding, improving, and hardening mobile broadband networks on the islands through an $237.9 million investment, Chairman Ajit Pai said.

“I’m especially pleased that we are providing the first universal service funding ever specifically targeted for the deployment of 5G networks so that consumers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will benefit from the next generation of wireless connectivity,” the official added in a statement.

The commission awarded “high-cost mobile support” to mobile carriers with the objective of expanding and hardening 4G LTE networks and deploy next-generation 5G networks, the FCC news release said.

The carriers were required to submit a disaster preparation and response plan “committing to measures and procedures for responding to future disasters,” the commission explained, adding that it required applicants for the funding to submit plans describing “in detail how they would: (1) strengthen infrastructure; (2) ensure network diversity; (3) ensure backup power; (4) monitor networks; and (5) prepare for emergencies.”

After reviewing the plans, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau approved approximately $97.8 million for AT&T, $76.6 million for Puerto Rico Telephone Co., and $59.6 million for T-Mobile in Puerto Rico, and $4 million for AT&T in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  

Through actions taken in the aftermath of the major 2017 hurricanes “as well as Stage 1 of the Uniendo a Puerto Rico Fund and Connect USVI Fund, the Commission has already provided approximately $130 million in extra universal service funding to carriers providing fixed and mobile broadband service in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” the release reads. 

Additional high-cost support to the territories for fixed voice and broadband services will be awarded separately through a competitive process later this summer, the FCC said.

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